Experts battle to increase dugongs

Marine experts and veterinarians met in Trang on Thursday to draw up a master plan to increase the number of dugongs in the sea off this southern province as they have dropped alarmingly in recent years.

Photo by Methee Muangkaew

The meeting was attended by officials from state agencies concerned with marine and coastal resources conservation, environmental advocates and members of fishing communities from Trang and Phuket. 

The number of rare marine animals being found dead -- especially dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles – in the Andaman Sea off Trang and Phuket provinces continued to drop, Patcharaporn Kaewmong, of Phuket Marine Biological Centre, said.

Last year, 11 dugongs were found dead in the sea off Trang, the highest number for the province in 20 years (1992-2011), Ms Patcharaporn said. An aerial inspection conducted last year showed there were 110-135 dugongs around Koh Libong -- Thailand’s largest habitat for the rare species located only 2km away from the Trang mainland -- after 134-150 were estimated in a 2011 survey. 

She said about 90 percent of the dugongs found dead on beaches were entangled in fishing nets and drowned, while others died from for parasite-related sicknesses which signalled increased levels of sea pollution and environmental degradation. 

They were also hunted for their teeth and certain parts to be used as ornaments. 

The dugong is listed as a protected animal under the 1992 Preservation and Protection of Animals Act in Thailand, but every year, 12 to 15 deaths are reported.

Ms Patcharaporn said the meeting agreed to set up a working panel to ensure strict implementation of the master plan once it is completed and the long-term monitoring of the situation would be set in place. 

Related search: dugong, Trang, falling numbers

About the author

Writer: Methee Muangkaew
Position: Reporter